Aftershock: Oden’s Knee To Influence NBA National TV Sked

By Geoffrey C. Arnold
Updated: September 15, 2007

OREGON -Greg Oden’s season-ending surgery on his right knee has ESPN and TNT rethinking their decisions to elevate the Blazers’ national television exposure this season, but the networks have limited alternatives.

“There are conversations taking place between ESPN and the league,” said Nate Smeltz, senior publicist for ESPN. “We want to provide the best matchups for our viewers.”

ESPN has six games involving the Blazers scheduled for broadcast, including the high-exposure Christmas Day game.

TNT also is scheduled to televise six Blazers games, including the season-opening game at San Antonio. It’s not a secret that the Blazers newfound popularity is a direct result of Oden. Now, he’s out for the season and these Blazers are essentially the same Blazers that didn’t appear on national television once last season.

“We are working with the NBA to look at our options,” said Jeff Pomeroy, TNT’s director of public relations.

The NBA already has set its schedule for next season. A league spokesman said it’s premature to say what will happen with television broadcasts of the Blazers, but the league will monitor the situation and continue talking with its television partners throughout the season.

“If it makes sense for everyone to change a game, we would do that,” said Tim Frank, the NBA’s vice president, basketball communications. “However, the Blazers may still have a terrific season.”

Even if the Blazers have a losing record, they likely will be on national TV at least a half-dozen times. The two highest-profile games are among those likely to remain on the national schedule.

If national TV drops a game, local stations could have the option of broadcasting it.

ESPN’s choices on Christmas are to stick with the Seattle-Portland game or go without a broadcast. The Blazers game is the only game scheduled for that evening. (Two earlier games are on ABC.) Even with Oden out, the game still would feature Seattle rookie Kevin Durant — provided he remains healthy.

The season-opening game at San Antonio is certain to remain on TV because the Spurs will receive their championship rings.

“We’re required to show the ring ceremony on opening night,” Pomeroy said. “We were excited about adding the Trail Blazers and Oden into the mix for that opening night game.”

The league allows ESPN and ABC to switch from a planned game to another one scheduled for the same day, based on how the season unfolds. However, TNT doesn’t have that luxury.

The cable network usually broadcasts regular-season games on Thursday nights, which have a light schedule, limiting the number of broadcast changes it can make.

Pomeroy said TNT was looking at options on the Blazers broadcast nights, but in some cases, “the other games may not benefit us, so it wouldn’t make sense for us to switch games.”

For example, the Blazers are scheduled to appear on TNT against Miami on Thursday, Dec. 6. The game is one of just three games that night and the only one with a late start.